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Australian auto glass supplier back in business

Local hero: The Camry Hybrid gets its glass from the reopened Pilkington factory in Geelong, now owned by MH Group.

MH Group reopens Geelong glass plant in $20 million deal with governments, Toyota

General News logo29 Jan 2010

By TERRY MARTIN

VICTORIAN components manufacturer MH Group (MHG) reopened the former Pilkington automotive glass operations in Geelong this week and has begun supplying vehicles built at Toyota Australia’s Altona plant, including the new Camry Hybrid.

Federal industry minister Kim Carr and Victorian premier John Brumby were among the dignitaries who attended the reopening, having both contributed to the $20 million rescue package to keep the plant alive after former owner CSR Veridian announced last June that it was closing down the operations.

Toyota Australia president Max Yasuda also attended the event.

MHG, which is better known for producing plastic car components, bought the Geelong plant – the last remaining automotive glass operation in Australia – and saved 68 jobs after securing backing from Toyota and the two tiers of government.

The Rudd government contributed $4.5 million under its Automotive Industry Structural Adjustment Program, which is part of its New Car Plan for a Greener Future.

80 center imageLeft: Federal industry minister Kim Carr.

Investment from other parties has not been divulged, although the state government funds came out of the $6.7 million Victorian Automotive Manufacturing Plan.

As well as retaining the site and jobs, the total investment included new technology and equipment and a “productivity upgrade”.

“The announcement comes at a time when automotive manufacturers worldwide are seeking to trim their balance sheets in the aftermath of the worst global recession in a generation,” Senator Carr said.

“MHG’s acquisition of the Geelong plant is an important example of the supply chain consolidation we need, and a great gesture of faith in Australia’s automotive future.”

Senator Carr said all Australian car manufacturers and their suppliers needed to recognise their interdependence and to “think about how we can make sure the system as a whole stays viable”.

“That is one objective of the technology roadmap being prepared under the auspices of the Automotive Industry Innovation Council and due for release at the Shanghai Expo later this year,” he said.

“It will identify areas in which Australia has special advantages – areas in which we can achieve global leadership. It is essential that we play to our strengths. (And) one of those strengths is automotive glass. That’s why we are backing MHG.”

Senator Carr said the federal government was determined to ensure Australia had a supply base that can support the production of hi-tech vehicles – “a supply base that that will convince global producers this is where they should be designing and building the cars of the future”.

He said this would be the “key to securing new projects” and ensuring Australian car and component manufacturing continued to survive.

“2009 was a black year for the Australian car industry,” he said. “Vehicle production figures fell to their lowest levels in half a century. The industry has been sorely tested, but it has survived.

“Even better than that, in these hardest of times, we are celebrating new investments. The supply chain remains intact. Smart companies have hung on to their workers and are ready to mobilise as kinder conditions return.

“And the signs are encouraging,” he said, pointing to the Australian-built Camry Hybrid, strong December new-vehicle sales and resurgent overseas markets.

Premier Brumby added: “This is a tremendous boon for local manufacturers such as Toyota and will ensure that Victoria remains the home of Australia’s automotive industry.

“Without this plant, Australian and Australian-based automotive companies would have no choice but to import glass for their vehicles.”

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